5 Bedtime Habits That Help You Lose Weight

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Are you sleepless and not in Seattle with Tom Hanks???

Take heart – you are not alone. The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) lists trouble falling asleep as one of their main five symptoms of menopause.  Most women complain of sleeplessness during perimenopause to postmenopause, with about 61% of post-menopausal women having issues with insomnia, per the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).

If you have joined this insomnia fest, you may also be wondering who is shrinking your pants??  I decided to explore if there is a correlation between insomnia and weight gain.

Dr. Caroline Apovian, the Director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at the Boston Medical Center, and the author of The Age-Defying Diet says, “Yes!”.  I asked Caroline to give us her top 5 bedtime habits that would help us lose those extra pounds.

1.) Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.

Your inner clock, or circadian rhythms, controls the release of hormones that signal your body to prepare for both sleep and waking.  Regularly changing your bedtime and wake time interferes with this process.  Not only will you have a harder time falling asleep and waking up in the morning without a consistent bedtime, but your cortisol levels will also be higher all day.  Cortisol, one of our main stress hormones, ramps up feelings of anxiety and prompts us to overeat, especially on calorie-dense foods.

You may have noticed that as you age, you wake much earlier than usual, and often have a difficult time getting back to sleep.  Changing sleep patterns are a normal part of the aging process.  If your body consistently expects to wake up earlier, try shifting your bedtime to a corresponding earlier time as well, to make sure you get a full night of sleep.

 2.) Sleep for 7-9 hours every night.

A lack of sufficient sleep not only stimulates high cortisol levels but also interferes with the efficiency of our metabolism.  Two important hormones, ghrelin, and leptin are brought into balance while you sleep.  Ghrelin signals the body to replenish energy stores and is experienced as hunger and cravings.  Leptin helps us to feel full and satisfied.  The day after a less than an optimal night of sleep, ghrelin levels remain high and leptin levels drop, regardless of what we eat.  Impulse control is also low on a day following a poor night of sleep, making it less likely that you will say no to sugary, high-calorie temptations when they present themselves.

 Our muscles are also repaired as we sleep.  Getting less than the recommended amount of sleep erodes lean muscle mass and subsequently slows the metabolism.  Counteract this metabolic slow down through getting enough sleep, strength training a couple of times per week, and eating plenty of lean protein.

3.) Turn off all electronics two hours before bed.

You’ve probably heard that the blue light emitted from computers, smartphones, TVs, and most other electronic devices interferes with melatonin production.  Even if you can fall asleep right after watching TV or checking your phone, you will experience less deep sleep throughout the night.  The following day, you will experience more fatigue, irritability, and hunger than usual.  Turning devices off a couple of hours prior to bedtime will help you to sidestep this unwelcome effect.

Along the same lines, sleeping in a darkened room will help you to sleep more soundly and deeply.  In one interesting study published by the Oxford University Press, women who slept in the darkest rooms experienced the lowest rates of obesity.

4.) Eat a high protein dinner.

Research from the Oregon Health & Science University and Harvard University demonstrates that we naturally experience more cravings at night, especially for sweet and salty foods.  In this study, researchers recruited volunteers to spend two weeks in dimly lit hotel rooms without any electronics, watches, visitors, or other markers that would help them to determine the time of day.  The team of researchers varied the waking and sleeping times of the volunteers and fed them the same meals at regular intervals.  Despite not knowing the time of day, the volunteers were consistently hungriest later in the evening. 

Snacking late at night can lead to weight gain.  Generally, right before bedtime, we’ve already consumed enough calories for the day.  In addition, giving our metabolisms a temporary rest from solid foods, even for as short of a period as after dinner until breakfast the following morning, encourages our bodies to tap into excess fat stores for energy.  Prevent unnecessary snacking by eating a dinner high in satiating protein. Choose a lean protein source or a high protein smoothie for your dinner, and you’ll feel full all night.

5.) Eat a diet rich in sleep-inducing foods.

While some foods, such as caffeine and alcohol, can interfere with a sound night’s sleep, others can actually enhance it.  Foods rich in tryptophan, like turkey, tuna, and chickpeas, act as natural sedatives, lulling us to sleep.  Other foods, such as the Montmorency cherry, contain high levels of natural melatonin, one of the primary hormones responsible for sleep.  A lack of calcium can also contribute to poor sleep quality, so adding some unsweetened Greek yogurt to your day can make a difference as well. 

Do you have trouble falling or staying asleep?  Try my all-natural, drug-free sleep aid, made from the Montmorency cherry and whey protein.  The cherry juice extract lulls you to sleep, and whey protein lengthens the effect, keeping you asleep throughout the night.

Instead of staring at the wall or e-shopping up a storm, try some of these new sleep tips.  If you can get those zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz’s back, and lose a few extra pounds – sounds like a win-win to me!

My motto:  Suffering in Silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!

Download my free eBook, MENOPAUSE MONDAYS The Girlfriends Guide to Surviving & Thriving during Perimenopause and Menopause.

After struggling with her own severe menopause symptoms and doing years of research, Ellen resolved to share what she learned from experts and her own trial and error. Her goal was to replace the confusion, embarrassment, and symptoms millions of women go through–before, during, and after menopause–with the medically sound solutions she discovered. Her passion to become a “sister” and confidant to all women fueled Ellen’s first book, Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness. As a result of the overwhelming response from her burgeoning audiences and followers’ requests for empowering information they could trust, Ellen’s weekly blog, Menopause MondaysTM, was born.

  • carla birnberg

    YESSSSS. All of these are things I do. Including the waking at the same time even on the weekends. People think me crazy 🙂 but it works for me

  • Stephanie_The_Recipe_Renovator

    Excellent tips! I do nearly all of these and my sleep has improved tremendously.

    • Great to hear that! Thanks for sharing………..it encourages the rest of us to work toward this goal.

  • Roxanne Jones

    What a great summary, Ellen! For those times that I can’t wean myself off electronics 2 hours before bed, I have a pair of yellow-tinted glasses that help counteract the effects of the blue light.

  • I am good about everything but turning electronics off 2 hours before. I always try to get in one more post or one more read.

  • doreenmcgettigan

    I am doing so much better with shutting my electronics off and reading or having a conversation with my husband before bed. My husband works 9-9 and doesn’t get home until 10 4-nights a week. This schedule is SO difficult to work around and we continue to try new ideas. Tuna and turkey sound like a plan!

    • I love how you two are working together to promote a healthy relationship and sleep success!

  • These are really great tips. Of course I must add that my sleepwear line is a great addition if night sweats are keeping you up at night or you wake up damp and have to change your sleepwear and or bedding. We can help!

  • lhs1971

    I do all of the above, consistently; the night sweats are a really big problem….sometimes I am not alert enough to get up and change…and have chills instead. Will definitely look into the sleepwear line below. The daytime hot flashes every couple hours are better, but the nights are a real bummer.

    • Have you tried black cohosh? When I interviewed the oncologists at Yale Cancer Center, they recommend, Remfemin. You can get it on Amazon. Here is the blog: http://ellendolgen.com/2015/01/breast-cancer-and-menopause/

      • lhs1971

        Thank you…I also just read about a medication that is essentially a low dose “cousin” of Paxil, which affects the thermal regulator cells in the brain…hoping to talk to the Dr. about that one. Strong breast cancer history in my immediate and extended family makes me very cautious about a lot of options 🙁

        • It is good to talk to your menopause specialist before taking anything over the counter, too.

    • Jen

      Making sure you have enough magnesium and potassium chl. or gl., and calcium in the eveing can also ensure you have a good night sleep, especially the magnesium. Gets rid of all kinds of stresses, tension, muscle pains/cramps, headaches/migranes, and sweats, it’s water soluble so body rids of excess. We use BoneUp daily or every other day, works great, keeps ya strong and we sleep better too. 500 mg. Magnesium works better for us than cohosh, melatonin or Taurine (which works too). L-tryptophan kept me awake with Lucid Dreams as did Melatonin. Keep in mind as we get older or more stressed we use up magnesium levels faster, daily dose is good. My husband has erratic 7day week schedule so we both take it and it’s also worked for HIS night sweats, lol Good Luck!

  • I can do most of this. It doesn’t always help as much as medical weed or Ativan. Sometimes, you just gotta do what you gotta do

  • Flashy Lady

    I just adjusted the brightness of my computer screen… I imagine lowering the brightness may also help in the evening.. and I’ll try reading .. Well, 9:15?.. Time to get off my computer!!

    • Haha! I hope some of these minor changes help you get more Zzzzz’s!